Kernel Analog-to-Digital Conversion HIL

TRD: 102
Working Group: Kernel
Type: Documentary
Status: Draft
Author: Philip Levis and Branden Ghena
Draft-Created: Dec 18, 2016
Draft-Modified: June 12, 2017
Draft-Version: 2


This document describes the hardware independent layer interface (HIL) for analog-to-digital conversion in the Tock operating system kernel. It describes the Rust traits and other definitions for this service as well as the reasoning behind them. This document also describes an implementation of the ADC HIL for the SAM4L. This document is in full compliance with TRD1.

1 Introduction

Analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) are devices that convert analog input signals to discrete digital output signals, typically voltage to a binary number. While different microcontrollers can have very different control registers and operating modes, the basic high-level interface they provide is very uniform. Software that wishes to use more advanced features can directly use the per-chip implementations, which may export these features.

The ADC HIL is the kernel crate, in module hil::adc. It provides three traits:

  • kernel::hil::adc::Adc - provides basic interface for individual analog samples
  • kernel::hil::adc::Client - receives individual analog samples from the ADC
  • kernel::hil::adc::AdcHighSpeed - provides high speed buffered analog sampling interface
  • kernel::hil::adc::HighSpeedClient - receives buffers of analog samples from the ADC

The rest of this document discusses each in turn.

2 Adc trait

The Adc trait is for requesting individual analog to digital conversions, either one-shot or repeatedly. It is implemented by chip drivers to provide ADC functionality. Data is provided through the Client trait. It has four functions and one associated type:

fn main() {
/// Simple interface for reading an ADC sample on any channel.
pub trait Adc {
    /// The chip-dependent type of an ADC channel.
    type Channel;

    /// Initialize must be called before taking a sample.
    fn initialize(&self) -> Result<(), ErrorCode>;

    /// Request a single ADC sample on a particular channel.
    /// Used for individual samples that have no timing requirements.
    fn sample(&self, channel: &Self::Channel) -> Result<(), ErrorCode>;

    /// Request repeated ADC samples on a particular channel.
    /// Callbacks will occur at the given frequency with low jitter and can be
    /// set to any frequency supported by the chip implementation. However
    /// callbacks may be limited based on how quickly the system can service
    /// individual samples, leading to missed samples at high frequencies.
    fn sample_continuous(&self, channel: &Self::Channel, frequency: u32) -> Result<(), ErrorCode>;

    /// Stop a sampling operation.
    /// Can be used to stop any simple or high-speed sampling operation. No
    /// further callbacks will occur.
    fn stop_sampling(&self) -> Result<(), ErrorCode>;

    fn set_client(&self, client: &'static dyn Client);

The initialize function configures the hardware to perform analog sampling. It MUST be called at least once before any samples are taken. It only needs to be called once, not once per sample. This function MUST return Ok(()) upon correct initialization or FAIL if the hardware fails to initialize successfully. If the driver is already initialized, the function SHOULD return Ok(()).

The sample function starts a single conversion on the specified ADC channel. The exact binding of this channel to external or internal analog inputs is board-dependent. The function MUST return Ok(()) if the analog conversion has been started, OFF if the ADC is not initialized or enabled, BUSY if a conversion is already in progress, or INVAL if the specified channel is invalid. The sample_ready callback of the client MUST be called when the conversion is complete.

The sample_continuous function begins repeated individual conversions on a specified channel. Conversions MUST continue at the specified frequency until stop_sampling is called. The sample_ready callback of the client MUST be called when each conversion is complete. The channels and frequency ranges supported are board-dependent. The function MUST return Ok(()) if repeated analog conversions have been started, OFF if the ADC is not initialized or enabled, BUSY if a conversion is already in progress, or INVAL if the specified channel or frequency are invalid.

The stop_sampling function can be used to stop any sampling operation, single, continuous, or high speed. Conversions which have already begun are canceled. stop_sampling MUST be safe to call from any callback in the Client or HighSpeedClient traits. The function MUST return Ok(()), OFF, or INVAL. Ok(()) indicates that all conversions are stopped and no further callbacks will occur, OFF means the ADC is not initialized or enabled, and INVAL means the ADC was not active.

The channel type is used to signify which ADC channel to sample data on for various commands. What it maps to is implementation-specific, possibly an I/O pin number or abstract notion of a channel. One approach used for channels by the SAM4L implementation is for the capsule to keep an array of possible channels, which are connected to pins by the board file, and selected from by userland applications.

3 Client trait

The Client trait handles responses from Adc trait sampling commands. It is implemented by capsules to receive chip driver responses. It has one function:

fn main() {
/// Trait for handling callbacks from simple ADC calls.
pub trait Client {
    /// Called when a sample is ready.
    fn sample_ready(&self, sample: u16);

The sample_ready function is called whenever data is available from a sample or sample_continuous call. It is safe to call stop_sampling within the sample_ready callback. The sample data returned is a maximum of 16 bits in resolution, with the exact data resolution being chip-specific. If data is less than 16 bits (for example 12-bits on the SAM4L), it SHOULD be placed in the least significant bits of the sample value.

4 AdcHighSpeed trait

The AdcHighSpeed trait is used for sampling data at high frequencies such that receiving individual samples would be untenable. Instead, it provides an interface that returns buffers filled with samples. This trait relies on the Adc trait being implemented as well in order to provide primitives like initialize and stop_sampling which are used for ADCs in this mode as well. While we expect many chips to support the Adc trait, we expect the AdcHighSpeed trait to be implemented due to a high-speed sampling need on a platform. The trait has three functions:

fn main() {
/// Interface for continuously sampling at a given frequency on a channel.
/// Requires the AdcSimple interface to have been implemented as well.
pub trait AdcHighSpeed: Adc {
    /// Start sampling continuously into buffers.
    /// Samples are double-buffered, going first into `buffer1` and then into
    /// `buffer2`. A callback is performed to the client whenever either buffer
    /// is full, which expects either a second buffer to be sent via the
    /// `provide_buffer` call. Length fields correspond to the number of
    /// samples that should be collected in each buffer. If an error occurs,
    /// the buffers will be returned.
    fn sample_highspeed(&self,
                        channel: &Self::Channel,
                        frequency: u32,
                        buffer1: &'static mut [u16],
                        length1: usize,
                        buffer2: &'static mut [u16],
                        length2: usize)
                        -> (Result<(), ErrorCode>, Option<&'static mut [u16]>,
                            Option<&'static mut [u16]>);

    /// Provide a new buffer to fill with the ongoing `sample_continuous`
    /// configuration.
    /// Expected to be called in a `buffer_ready` callback. Note that if this
    /// is not called before the second buffer is filled, samples will be
    /// missed. Length field corresponds to the number of samples that should
    /// be collected in the buffer. If an error occurs, the buffer will be
    /// returned.
    fn provide_buffer(&self,
                      buf: &'static mut [u16],
                      length: usize)
                      -> (Result<(), ErrorCode>, Option<&'static mut [u16]>);

    /// Reclaim ownership of buffers.
    /// Can only be called when the ADC is inactive, which occurs after a
    /// successful `stop_sampling`. Used to reclaim buffers after a sampling
    /// operation is complete. Returns success if the ADC was inactive, but
    /// there may still be no buffers that are `some` if the driver had already
    /// returned all buffers.
    fn retrieve_buffers(&self)
                        -> (Result<(), ErrorCode>, Option<&'static mut [u16]>,
                            Option<&'static mut [u16]>);

    fn set_highspeed_client(&self, client: &'static dyn HighSpeedClient);

The sample_highspeed function is used to perform high-speed double-buffered sampling. After the first buffer is filled with samples, the samples_ready function will be called and sampling will immediately continue into the second buffer in order to reduce jitter between samples. Additional buffers SHOULD be passed through the provide_buffer call. However, if none are provided, the driver MUST cease sampling once it runs out of buffers. In case of an error, the buffers will be immediately returned from the function. The channels and frequencies acceptable are chip-specific. The return code MUST be Ok(()) if sampling has begun successfully, OFF if the ADC is not enabled or initialized, BUSY if the ADC is in use, or INVAL if the channel or frequency are invalid.

The provide_buffer function is used to provide additional buffers to an ongoing high-speed sampling operation. It is expected to be called within a samples_ready callback in order to keep sampling running without delay. In case of an error, the buffer will be immediately returned from the function. It is not an error to fail to call provide_buffer and the underlying driver MUST cease sampling if no buffers are remaining. It is an error to call provide_buffer twice without having received a buffer through samples_ready. The prior settings for channel and frequency will persist. The return code MUST be Ok(()) if the buffer has been saved for later use, OFF if the ADC is not initialized or enabled, INVAL if there is no currently running continuous sampling operation, or BUSY if an additional buffer has already been provided.

The retrieve_buffers function returns ownership of all buffers owned by the chip implementation. All ADC operations MUST be stopped before buffers are returned. Any data within the buffers SHOULD be considered invalid. It is expected that retrieve_buffers will be called from within a samples_ready callback after calling stop_sampling. Up to two buffers will be returned by the function. The return code MUST be Ok(()) if the ADC is not in operation (although as few as zero buffers may be returned), INVAL MUST be returned if an ADC operation is still in progress.

5 HighSpeedClient trait

The HighSpeedClient trait is used to receive samples from a call to sample_highspeed. It is implemented by a capsule to receive chip driver responses. It has one function:

fn main() {
/// Trait for handling callbacks from high-speed ADC calls.
pub trait HighSpeedClient {
    /// Called when a buffer is full.
    /// The length provided will always be less than or equal to the length of
    /// the buffer. Expects an additional call to either provide another buffer
    /// or stop sampling
    fn samples_ready(&self, buf: &'static mut [u16], length: usize);

The samples_ready function receives a buffer filled with up to length number of samples. Each sample MAY be up to 16 bits in size. Smaller samples SHOULD be aligned such that the data is in the least significant bits of each value. The length field MUST match the length passed in with the buffer (through either sample_highspeed or provide_buffer). Within the samples_ready callback, the capsule SHOULD call provide_buffer if it wishes to continue sampling. Alternatively, stop_sampling and retrieve_buffers SHOULD be called to stop the ongoing ADC operation.

6 Example Implementation: SAM4L

The SAM4L ADC has a flexible ADC, supporting differential and single-ended inputs, 8 or 12 bit samples, configurable clocks, reference voltages, and grounds. It supports periodic sampling supported by an internal timer. The SAM4L ADC uses generic clock 10 (GCLK10). The ADC is peripheral 38, so its control registers are found at address 0x40038000. A complete description of the ADC can be found in Chapter 38 (Page 995) of the SAM4L datasheet.

The current implementation, found in chips/sam4l/, implements the Adc and AdcHighSpeed traits.

6.1 ADC Channels

In order to provide a list of ADC channels to the capsule and userland, the SAM4L implementation creates an AdcChannel struct which contains and enum defining its value. Each possible ADC channel is then statically created. Other chips may want to consider a similar system.

fn main() {
/// Representation of an ADC channel on the SAM4L.
pub struct AdcChannel {
    chan_num: u32,
    internal: u32,

/// SAM4L ADC channels.
enum Channel {
    AD0 = 0x00,
    AD1 = 0x01,
    ReferenceGround = 0x17,

/// Initialization of an ADC channel.
impl AdcChannel {
    /// Create a new ADC channel.
    /// channel - Channel enum representing the channel number and whether it is
    ///           internal
    const fn new(channel: Channel) -> AdcChannel {
        AdcChannel {
            chan_num: ((channel as u8) & 0x0F) as u32,
            internal: (((channel as u8) >> 4) & 0x01) as u32,

/// Statically allocated ADC channels. Used in board configurations to specify
/// which channels are used on the platform.
pub static mut CHANNEL_AD0: AdcChannel = AdcChannel::new(Channel::AD0);
pub static mut CHANNEL_AD1: AdcChannel = AdcChannel::new(Channel::AD1);
pub static mut CHANNEL_REFERENCE_GROUND: AdcChannel = AdcChannel::new(Channel::ReferenceGround);

6.2 Client Handling

As ADC functionality is split between two traits, there are two callback traits. ADC driver implementations that use both Adc and AdcHighSpeed need two clients, which must both be set:

fn main() {
hil::adc::Adc::set_client(&peripherals.adc, adc);
hil::adc::AdcHighSpeed::set_client(&peripherals.adc, adc);

6.3 Clock Initialization

The ADC clock on the SAM4L is poorly documented. It is required to both generate a clock based on the PBA clock as well as GCLK10. However, the clock used for samples by the ADC run at 1.5 MHz at the highest (for single sampling mode). In order to handle this, the SAM4L ADC implementation first divides down the clock to reach a value less than or equal to 1.5 MHz (exactly 1.5 MHz in practice for a CPU clock running at 48 MHz).

6.4 ADC Initialization

The process of initializing the ADC is well documented in the SAM4L datasheet, unfortunately it seems to be entirely false. While following the documentation allows for single sampling, high speed sampling fails in practice after a small number of samples (order less than 100) have been collected. After much experimentation and comparison to other SAM4L code available online, it was determined that the initialization process should be:

  1. Enable clock
  2. Configure ADC
  3. Reset ADC
  4. Enable ADC
  5. Wait until ADC status is set to enabled
  6. Enable the Bandgap and Reference Buffers
  7. Wait until the buffers are enabled

It is quite possible that other orders of initialization are valid, however proceed with caution.

7 Authors' Address

Philip Levis
409 Gates Hall
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305

phone - +1 650 725 9046

email -
Branden Ghena

email -

8 Citations

[TRD1] Tock Reference Document (TRD) Structure and Keywords